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My next move: In which areas of practice are lawyers in demand in Melbourne?

My next move: In which areas of practice are lawyers in demand in Melbourne?

There are certain areas of law that are reasonably buoyant in the current legal climate in Melbourne, despite the legal employment market softening since the beginning of this financial year.

These areas include: employment & workplace relations (3 years’ PAE up to senior associate level); litigation – including banking litigation, commercial & insolvency (2 to 4 years’ PAE and again at senior associate level); personal injury (including defendant WorkCover & insurance), and family law (3 to 5 years’ PAE).

The demand, over the past 12 months, for these areas and levels of experience has been fairly steady and consistent. While the opportunities for lawyers in transactional-type areas of law have not been as strong in this period, mid-level commercial and property lawyers (particularly 2 to 4 years’ PAE) are still being sought in some firms.

At partner level there also continues to be movement, especially for those with a sizeable client following and a specialist practice area, which would be an attractive proposition for a firm seeking to establish/broaden their practice in that area. Partner relocation is on the rise from top tiers across to mid-tier firms that are, in some instances, better able to support their service offering at more competitive prices.

With the exception of partners relocating themselves and their practices to other firms, often prompting additional hiring opportunities as they re-build their teams to support their client base and requirements, much of the current recruitment demand is due to existing lawyer roles requiring replacement rather than significant growth opportunities.

Accordingly, recruitment needs are being very much driven by the mid-tier law firms and specialist boutique practices at the moment. Some of the top-tier law firms are currently less active as they integrate their recent international merger activity. This has resulted in mid-tier and quality smaller, specialist law firms seizing the opportunity to attract and secure some significant talent in an otherwise candidate-tight market.

Opportunities within in-house, government and not-for-profit sectors have remained fairly quiet, resulting in strong competition among candidates when new roles do become available.

While the recruitment demand may not change significantly for the balance of the 2012 calendar year, all indicators are pointing to an anticipated rise in legal recruitment levels early in 2013.

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